Black Company Wiki
Black Company Wiki

Glen Cook (born July 9, 1944) is the author of the Black Company series, along with numerous other fantasy and science-fiction novels.

He was born in New York, lived in southern Indiana as a small child, and later grew up in northern California. He started writing short stories in 7th grade. In high school he had several published in a school literary magazine, and also completed four years of Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). After graduating from high school he joined the United States Navy where he got much of his inspiration and distinctive voice for the Black Company series. He served eight years in the Navy and Navy Reserve, including time aboard destroyers and with a Marine Force Recon outfit as Forward Fire Control Observer.

He next attended the University of Missouri. He was one of the earliest graduates of the well-known Clarion Writer's Workshop in 1970, where he met his wife Carol. His 1985 novel A Matter of Time was a Prometheus Award Best Novel Nominee. He was employed by General Motors for 33 years. He has three sons and numerous grandchildren. He is currently retired and resides near St. Louis, Missouri.

In addition to the Black Company series, Glen Cook has written and published a number of other long running series, as well as several standalone novels and short stories. A list of these can be found at Wikipedia (external link).

Interviews with Black Company-related highlights[]

2016 on The Coode Street Podcast[]

  • External link to podcast: Episode 264 (interview with guests Glen Cook and Steven Erikson by Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan; Friday Jan 15, 2016)

Inspirations for One-Eye and Goblin[]

I'll say that almost all the members of the Company that you see on stage during the first book are people I knew when I was in the service. Except for One-Eye and Goblin. One-Eye and Goblin if I'm completely honest about it, are slightly derivative of characters named Monk and Ham from the Doc Savage pulp novels of the 1930s, who are constantly squabbling and whatnot. I did not really set out... to write Vietnam war fiction. I wanted to write about guys that I knew and what I thought they'd be like under those kinda situations.

2012 interview with SF Signal[]

  • External link to full interview: [1]

Evolution of the full series[]

It was an evolutionary process beginning with the editing process for the first book. The editor who bought it was troubled by Black Company because she saw it as so different from all the Tolkien clones going around in those days. She insisted I do a trilogy in which the men of the Company would eventually show us that they were not irredeemably wicked. By the time I completed White Rose I knew Shadow Games. That underwent mitosis and became Shadow Games and Silver Spike. By then Dreams Of Steel was obvious and Glittering Stone had to be done. That last, however, had a litter: Bleak Seasons, She Is The Darkness, Water Sleeps, and Soldiers Live. [...] A Pitiless Rain will follow on after Soldiers Live.

2011 video interview, Utopiales[]

  • External link to YouTube: [2]
  • External link to transcript: [3]

Inspirations for titles[]

Water Sleeps” comes from a Turkish proverb and “Soldiers Live” comes from a poem written by a Vietnam veteran soldier about feeling guilty about how he survived but his friends didn’t. “She Is the Darkness” comes from a song called Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac.

Explanation for longer books[]

...the first six books were written by hand and using a typewriter and the last four were written mostly on computer. And on a computer you can just waste a lot of time and get a lot fatter and a lot more space because you don’t have to retype your manuscript. When you have to retype 300 pages of something because you’re making changes, it’s just a lot of physical work, so you try to keep it short and get it done right the first time, whereas with a computer you can push a button and make changes all the way through. So, I think computers are the biggest reason that my books have gone longer over the years.

Praise for Didier Graffet[]

L’Autre Monde: Does the work of Didier Graffet on the Black Company influence your way to write now?

No. Everything that he has illustrated was already written before he ever saw any of it. So it has had no influence upon what I do. I have tried to convince my American publisher to use the artwork but they don’t think that it’s commercial as far as the American market goes. I think he’s a genius, I love the work that he does but everything I’ve got in America right now has got a fellow named Swanland on the cover. It doesn’t seem to matter what publisher it is, they put the same generic smerge on the cover that have nothing to do with what’s inside the book but they do sell the book. So even though I don’t like them, I accept them. As a writer you have no choice what goes on the covers of your books anyway so you just have to live with whatever they give you. But it’s easier to live with it if it sells the book, you know, if it brings it to attention to get somebody to pick it up and turn it over and look and see what it’s about.

Refusal to create a world map[]

With the Black Company I took advice from Fritz Leiber who was my mentor and who said “Don’t draw a map because if you draw a map, as soon as you start drawing the map, you start narrowing your possibilities”. As long as you don’t have a map you don’t have to conform to certain things. I have a vague map inside my head and I’ve seen many maps on the internet of what people thought the Black Company world might be like. They’re not too far off, but they’re not close either. It’s north and south with a pond in the middle.

2009 interview with Pat's Fantasy Hotlist[]

  • External link to full interview: [4]

Dislike of omnibus format[]

I really loathed the Black Company omnibus idea. The books were all in print, all the time, in a format that fit peoples’ bookshelves. But they have been successful commercially. The first one has been through five printings already.

Opinions on the subtitles[]

Glen's answer here is in response to this question: "Were there any perceived conventions of the fantasy genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out each Black Company series?". His answer seems to indicate that the subtitles, such as "#th Book of Glittering Stone" and "#th Chronicle" did not source from him.

There is only one Black Company series. The subtitle crap was made up by the publisher.

Evolution of the series[]

Firstly, the Black Company started out to be a single book, that would be a novel made up of a series of novelettes. Only one of those got published independently before my agent sold the book to Tor. The editor there did not like the characters at all. But she said she couldn’t get the book out of her head. So we got drunk and rowdy and worked out an agreement that I would make it a trilogy. But the time I finished THE WHITE ROSE I knew where the story would go from there, vaguely, all the way to the end of GLITTERING STONE. Which I expected to be one book the size of the others, but which needed six, some very fat.

Opinions of the covers[]

That said, I have had some fine covers. [...] The covers for the French first editions of the Black Company books by Didier Graffet are genius. The covers for the first 6 Black Company books here, because they were painted by a very good friend. Though they’re a little primitive they do have some actual connection with what is inside. [...] Generally speaking, cover art is worse overseas.

2006 interview with J. Buck Caldwell[]

2005 interview with Strange Horizons[]

  • External link: [5]

Popularity in the armed services[]

last year at a convention a guy came in specifically just to meet me. He was in the 5th Special Forces group that was in Iraq before the war actually started, and he had spent a good deal of time in Baghdad. He said the group had one set of Black Company books, and they fought each other over those books more than they fought the Iraqis. [...] The characters act like the guys actually behave. It doesn't glorify war; it's just people getting on with the job. The characters are real soldiers. They're not soldiers as imagined by people who've never been in the service. That's why service guys like it. They know every guy who's in the books, and I knew every guy who's in the books. Most of the early characters were based on guys I was in the service with. The behavior patterns are pretty much what you'd expect if you were an enlisted man in a small unit.

Praise for Green Ronin's RPG[]

There's a role-playing game based on the Black Company, which came out just in time for Christmas. The game is with what I am told is one of the better companies, Green Ronin. I'd never heard of them before they approached me, but people in the industry tell me they're good. It's based on Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (d20). I know nothing about gaming, but it's an AD&D system that is adaptable to a lot of stuff. They're writing a bunch of special rules because my magic works differently from [other universes]. It looks interesting. I saw the first draft of the book, and they certainly got all of the history of the Black Company right. Whoever did the research did a very good job.

2002 interview with Quantum Muse at Boskone 39[]

  • External link: [6]

Origin of the first novel cover[]

The cover of The Black Company was a cover somebody made up for me. It was just an example. The marketing guy absolutely didn't want it. But, while it was on his desk, a buyer from a large chain bookstore came in and, not knowing anything about the book, said "I'll buy fifty thousand copies of anything with that on the cover," so they went with it.

1986 interview with Larry Lennhoff[]

The handful of Black Company-related answers from this interview with Larry Lennhoff sheds much light on Glen's writing process after the publication of The White Rose. The interview appeared in issue #37 (August 1986) of Twilight Zine, a quarterly published by the MIT Science Fiction Society and edited by Janice M. Eisen.

  • External link: [7]
I have two-thirds of a fourth, currently entitled Glittering Stone, but probably to be changed to Shadows Dancing (actually the original working title for The White Rose, with GS going for a fifth. I have scrapped the material for this book once and am strongly considering doing so again. [...] There are a host of in-progress works also no sold yet, including [...] the aforementioned Black Company novel as well as another entitled The Silver Spike.